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For Immediate Release Contact: Kim Weiss (800) 851-9100 ext. 212 or kimw@hcibooks.com

My Soul Said To Me
An Unlikely Journey Behind the Walls of Justice

Robert E. Roberts, D.D.S., Ph.D., M.S.W.

So there Rusty and I were, behind locked doors, in a circle with fifty male prisoners. As soon as our requested three minutes of silence were over, Billy, a prisoner who was sitting next to my colleague, Rusty, turned to him, got right in his face and demanded, "What the f- you doin` here - you come here to f- with our minds?" Billy was not much bigger than Rusty, but he was solid muscle. The expression on his face was serious and focused. "They payin` you to be here? How much they payin` you?" Wisely, Rusty carefully and calmly answered his questions with a brief "Yes," and, "Not much."

Such was the tone at Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, Louisiana, on day- one of Bob Robert`s first workshop. Here, as part of his doctoral dissertation, he would apply the community building model of his mentor Dr. Scott Peck to a group of fifty prisoners, nearly all African American, and chosen at random by a lottery system. Meeting weekly, and intended to last three years, the workshops progressed. Men who had lived together for years, barely exchanging words, began to converse meaningfully with each other. Visitations increased from loved ones and friends, and a considerable decrease in violence within the group of prisoners occurred as well. When tested, the average reading scores of the community improved and entire grade level every seven weeks..

In My Soul Said To Me: Unlikely Journey Behind the Walls of Justice (Health Communications, Inc., $12.95), Bob Roberts documents every leg of this unlikely journey straight through to the eventual sabotage and demise of the program he implemented in Jackson. Although we despair for the Dixon prisoners, who we have grown to understand and care about, Roberts` work is not done. He is inspired to start what would become the country`s most successful and only privately operated prisoner reentry program funded by the Department of Justice.

What began as an experiment that benefitted a few hundred prisoners in Louisiana grew into Project Return in New Orleans, a program affiliated with Tulane Medical Center`s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Since its inception, Project Return has helped break the cycles of addiction, crime and violence of over 2500 former offender reducing their probability of returning to prison from 3 in 4 to 1 in 4.

Two significant elements of the work Roberts practiced in his original program and carries on at Project Return involve grief work and African studies. For the first time in their lives, participants enter a safe environment for unloading emotional burdens they have carried for years, burdens that have weighed them down with guilt, shame , and grief because there has been no place to lay them, no one to acknowledge their suffering, no vessel strong enough to contain their rage. From this process , participants cultivate an environment of "extraordinary respect" for each other rekindling in them the flames of dignity, courage, determination, and destiny.

Throughout My Soul Said To Me we see possibility. We are taken to the very bowels of the prison system and see inmates blossom like lotus flowers from mud. We see that with the cooperation of the prison staff and appropriate programs, offenders can be aided in breaking the pattern of perpetual crime. In this wonderfully written memoir, we get to know the humanity of the unlucky ones whose varying conditions have led them down destructive paths. But no longer need we feel that these paths become life sentences. As Bob Roberts allows us to witness his own journey, we are ourselves inspired to build our own communities, if not exclusively in our hearts then outward in our worlds as well.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robert E. Roberts, D.D.S., Ph.D., M.S.W., lives in New Orleans and was formerly a dentist and clinical assistant professor at Tulane Medical Center`s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. He is the founder of Project Return, an internationally recognized prison reentry program aimed at breaking the cycles of crime sensibly and without further harm. Project Return has been the subject of a documentary film, Road to Return, narrated by Tim Robbins and produced by John Densmore of The Doors. Project Return has been featured on the front pages of The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, and many other newspaper and television shows around the world.

Available at bookstores, or to order directly from the publisher, contact: (800) 441-5569 or www.hcibooks.com

My Soul Said To Me
An Unlikely Journey Behind the Walls of Justice
Robert E. Roberts
(ISBN: 0-7573-0064-2)
$12.95
February 2003 - Trade paperback.
Kim Weiss
Director of Communications
HCI Books & Simcha Press
3201 SW 15 Street
Deerfield Beach, FL 33442
(800) 851-9100 ext. 212